The bouncy little chestnut – nicknamed Pumpkin – looks all set to be Charlotte Dujardin’s next superstar. Polly Bryan finds out more about him
Charlotte Dujardin first met her rising grand prix star Gio, known at home as Pumpkin, as a five-year-old while she was teaching a clinic in California.
Rider Charlotte Dujardin
“I first saw Gio, aka Pumpkin, aged five while I was doing a symposium in the USA in 2016, and I instantly fell in love with him. He wasn’t actually supposed to be there at all, but one horse had gone lame and he was the stand-in horse. I managed to strike a deal to buy him, and now I’m very lucky to co-own him with my good friend Renai Hart.
“Carl [Hester] was originally meant to buy a share in him, too, but pulled out because he thought he was too small at 16hh. I said, ‘Just wait until you see him go’, and Pumpkin proved Carl very wrong!
“He actually rides quite big – he has so much energy and power that you forget he’s small. It’s only when I get off a bigger horse and then get on Pumpkin that I notice.
“I’d love to have Pumpkin on a British team one day and see how far he can go. He’s definitely good enough to be a Tokyo Olympics prospect, and I think he could win a gold medal at a championship one day.
“What has happened this year with the lockdown has not done him any harm; he is still so young. He has everything it takes; he’s amazing at piaffe, passage, pirouettes… his only weakness would be his extended trot, but that’s getting much better.
“Best of all, he is just so lovely and easy in every way – he’s just divine. And he isn’t difficult to ride; he’s very clever – I can feel him thinking things through when I ride him – and he always tries his little heart out.”
Groom Alan Davies
“I call Pumpkin the working hunter pony – he’s a real brat at home and it’s just like having a little Welsh pony in the stables as he can be so naughty. Sometimes I think my Shetland ponies are better behaved! Interestingly, when I was on the plane to the World Equestrian Games in 2018, Pumpkin’s late sire Apache was on the plane too, and I noticed he was always pawing the ground in the same way Pumpkin does.
“But Pumpkin redeems himself at shows, where he is always really well behaved and, of course, he’s so nice to ride. He doesn’t feel like a pony at all and proves that you don’t need to have a big horse with big movement to train up to grand prix. Charlotte just loves bouncing around on him, and she doesn’t like it when I take the mickey out of him!
“Even though we have every shape and size horse here, Pumpkin looks tiny on the yard next to all the others. But he’s very chummy and mates with everyone, as long as he is the centre of attention – he definitely has small man syndrome.”
Judge Stephen Clarke
“The first thought that came into my mind when I saw Gio at a judging seminar earlier this year was that he was a pocket rocket. What is unique and charming about him is that he isn’t the biggest horse, but he is so well put together and has such absolutely beautiful paces, as well as having the sort of attitude and personality that makes him stand out. He looks very willing; I got the impression that he really wants to do it.
“I’m also excited to see that one of the best riders in the world has managed to find a horse like this – she can really bring out all his natural ability. And it’s so important to see such a friendly, harmonious partnership between horse and rider.
“Because of Gio’s physical ability, he finds all the exercises easy to do; he has no weaknesses and many natural highlights. He certainly looks to have the potential to be an absolutely top horse in the sport – if all goes well I can’t see anything stopping him getting to the top.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 5 November 2020
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